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New data show Sonoma County fire damage by community

Fire officials released new data this week that paint a clearer picture of the destruction and housing losses in the fires that burned through Sonoma County last month, killing at least 23 people.

Countywide, the wildfires destroyed 6,600 structures, including 5,130 homes, according to Cal Fire

“Those are big numbers. Our housing crunch is only going to be exacerbated by the loss of existing homes,” said Santa Rosa Fire Battalion Chief Mark Basque, who spent hours battling the Tubbs fire in Coffey Park after it hopped Highway 101 from Fountaingrove.

“The recovery is going to be marathon, not a sprint,” he said.

The Tubbs fire erupted Oct. 8 outside Calistoga and raced into northern Santa Rosa, laying waste to Coffey Park, Fountaingrove and the neighboring Journey’s End Mobile Home Park in northern Santa Rosa. About 2,900 homes, 94 businesses and several outhouse buildings burned in those areas, according to the latest Cal Fires figures.

Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said more than 1,000 homes burned in Coffey Park. More than 1,000 homes are thought to have burned in Fountaingrove and surrounding areas.

At Journey’s End, where 160 mobile homes stood before the fire, only about 20 mobile homes survived, Gossner said.

“About 90 percent of the park is gone,” he said.

The fire destroyed 1,500 homes and more than 600 businesses and secondary buildings, including sheds and barns, in the Rincon Valley, Mark West and Larkfield-Wikiup area.

In Sonoma Valley, the Nuns fire destroyed 375 Glen Ellen structures, including 183 homes, Sonoma Valley Fire Chief Steve Akre said. High winds propelled the fire, which moved swiftly through the rural community just north of Sonoma.

“It was advancing so fast that it was nearly impossible to try to catch,” said Akre, whose department this summer took over fire and emergency calls in Glen Ellen.

“We feel that loss very profoundly,” Akre said. “It’s all Sonoma Valley. Everybody is affected, everybody feels that loss.”

He said the fire also burned about 30 homes on the northeastern side of Sonoma, just a few miles from the historic Plaza.

At least 120 homes and 98 sheds, barns and outhouses were leveled in Bennett Valley — about one of every 10 homes in the region — after a branch of the Nuns fire roared through Trione-Annadel State Park from Kenwood, where 140 homes also burned.

Bennett Ridge was the hardest hit, said Bennett Valley Fire Chief Dan George, with roughly 100 homes lost.

One resident, Daniel Southard, 71, died in his Bennett Ridge Road home when flames overtook his neighborhood on the south end of Annadel park.

Homes also burned in Hidden Acres and Pressley Road, Bennett Valley Battalion Chief Darrin DeCarli said.

“It’s tough,” DeCarli said.

“I’m still trying to process everything … It’s something we never experienced before.”

George plans to send firefighters out next week to further assess the damage. The number of burnt structures could increase, he said.

“We’re still in the fact-finding mode to figure out what truly transpired,” said George, who will be meeting with Bennett Valley homeowners today to talk about the impact of the wildfires.

“We need to focus on the recovery and what lessons we can learn,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458.